“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

Brands just like products and services can have a shelf life. And what consumers see, hear and think about a brand is wholly shaped by the context in which they encounter it, which in turn can directly affect what they do and buy. Changing the backdrop for a brand, for example, changes not just how consumers see the brand but their understanding of how the brand sees itself. It can be dangerous territory and must be executed with a crystal clear strategy. It can equally be dangerous not to venture toward seeking change at all. And that has seen come companies fall off the consumer radar altogether. So let’s look at a couple of examples of rebrands or brand ‘refreshes’ from 2015 from which we can learn a thing or two. And hopefully more.

Firstly the brand CareerBuilder who opted for the total rebranded and took a huge career step back to the future, approximately the 1980’s, and created a lot of noise in the marketplace. A poll conducted by independent design firm and online publishers UnderConsideration which allowed respondents to vote on whether the new logo was “great”, “fine”, or “bad”, and 93% voted “bad” for the icon and 89% voted “bad” for the wordmark. Considering CareerBuilder employs 2,500 people, works with employers around the world including 92% of Fortune 1000 companies, and receives around 24 million unique visitors to their website per month either seeking new jobs or career advice, it seems they didn’t seek enough advice themselves. We could spend a fair amount of time critiquing the decision making and direction behind this bold change but instead let’s move on.

Last year we also noted a move toward what has been marked as an “undesign” trend. The best uncontested examples of 2015 were without doubt the brand refresh made by Google and Facebook. We’ll focus on only the one as we’re not sure any logo design in history that has received as much press, social media coverage, and debate as Google’s basic ‘type change’. Some were very sad to the serifs depart and one such article from The New Yorker titled: “Why You Hate Google’s New Logo” by Sarah Larson (September 3rd 2015) suggested it evokes such things as children’s fridge magnets, McDonald’s French fries, and Comic Sans (which for anyone not familiar is an average system font that most if not all designers despise). However it is essentially clean, tidy, legible and presentable, with arguably a longterm shelf life. In our opinion it’s almost difficult not to like it, or a least accept it. But maybe that is the problem? We don’t just want to simply like it. We want to love it. For a brand that we spend so much of our waking life, and a name that has now become part of our daily vocabulary; do we just expect something more?

Last of all we’ll share what we consider to be quite humorous and that’s Spotify’s brand colour change in June 2015 which nearly broke the internet. The seemingly subtle update was actually part of some really great branding exploration and identity that included lots of bold colour experimentation. The logo remained unchanged other than a slight shift in the shade of green. However people took to the twitter feed and went into a frenzy. People were feeling “shocked”, “pissed off”, “aggravated”, “sickened” (some allegedly to the point of nauseous), and many others were “inconsolable”. One Twitter user commented “my life has been complete shit since Spotify changed its logo to a lighter shade of green”. It’s amazing what a significant affect a small change can have on brand loyal followers. Most fascinating is the the fact that it incited such severe emotion towards not the product itself which remained unchanged, but the logo mark that appears on the app that merely represents it, that had only slightly changed from one green to another.

So this takes us back to the point in question; the late David Bowie and how he built an entire career on changing his identity, right up until his twenty-six and final album Blackstar, which was met with critical acclaim and commercial success and was his first first and only album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US. Bowie’s consumers would have all come to a point in their ‘relationship’ with him and his ‘product’ where they would have expected something different otherwise it wouldn’t have have been Bowie anymore.

We’ve highlighted that consumers will react to change with enthusiasm, confusion, indifference or outrage depending on the motives for the change, and or how well the change is communicated. Be very clear about the consumer benefits of the rebrand, not just your reasons, and keep those front-of-mind throughout the rebranding process. And most importantly be patient. Take the time to include, consult and decide together with key stakeholders. The excitement of rebrand should always be overshadowed by the responsibility of getting it right.